"Well, I'll Be John Brown"

Real stories about folks who have blessed my life with the joy and fulfillment of laughter. Long may they live.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

A Southern Boy - Born In Alabama, Reared In Georgia, and Matriculated, Married & Initiated Into Manhood In Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Tales of Parris Island

My father was trained at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC, in the old white barracks during the months of June-August 1940. His Senior Drill Instructor will go down in history known to me only as, "Staff Sergeant Kepple."

One day, with the black flag flying, Staff Sergeant Kepple had kept the platoon drilling out on the "Grinder" during the hottest part of the day. Back then, near the 1st Battallion barracks was a large area of circular waterpipes known as the "Water Hole." These pipes lay on the ground, and had holes punched every few inches along the top of the pipe. When the water was turned on several recruits could stand in a circle and all drink at the same time from the little fountains of water that came spewing up.

With the whole platoon wringing wet with sweat and their throats dry and parched, Staff Sergeant Kepple marched them over toward the waterhole and brought the whole mob to a halt. My dad said he just KNEW that finally they would get some relief. Having brought the platoon to order arms and parade rest, Staff Sergeant Kepple went over, turned on the water, got a long, slow, drink for HIMSELF, turned off the water, brought the platoon to attention and right shoulder arms, and promptly marched them right back onto the grinder.

My dad said that at that moment, he and the rest of his platoon mates began for the first time to try and think of ways to end the miserable earthly existence of such a person as this.

Another messing with the mind (and body) came shortly after my dad began his training at MCRD, Parris Island, SC. The culprit was the same senior Drill Instructor - Staff Sergeant Kepple. One early morning Staff Sergeant Kepple had them do something that had no rhyme nor reason to it other than the inflicting of intense pain and suffering.

As these eighty young Marine recruits were marched onto the parade deck, they had no idea that they were about to become, "Sitting Ducks."

The platoon was lined up four abreast. Staff Sergeant Kepple ordered the first line of recruits to come to port arms, and then to assume a squatting position. He then ordered them to raise their old bolt action Springfield .03 rifles over their heads with arms fully extended - while keeping the weapon parallel to the deck. Then, to the rhythm of a very slow count or cadence, Staff Sergeant Kepple had the recruits to duck waddle or "march" on their haunches the full distance of the parade deck.

There, the Junior Drill Instructors were waiting to call them to a halt and an about face, and to make sure that they maintained the squatting position while waiting for the rest of the platoon to join them. This excrutiating little adventure was repeated until the whole platoon was at the opposite end of the grinder standing at "duck attention."

My dad said that after about two relays of this drill the legs and buttocks began to cramp in ways far beyond any human description. And, for those who had not completed an adequate head call that morning (i.e., "The Three S's"), there were other obstacles to overcome.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this fun a staff car rolled up. A "full bird" Colonel stepped out and smartly proceeded over to Staff Sergeant Kepple. After the exchange of salutes and the issue of, "As You Were," the Colonel asked Staff Sergeant Kepple in a strong, low voice that echoed over the entire parade deck: "Staff Sergeant, just what in the name of God do you think you are doing with this platoon?" Staff Sergeant Kepple answered in the same type of voice for all to hear, "Just trying to get a few of the kinks out of 'em sir!"

My dad said that for the next few minutes the Colonel paced back and forth watching the spectacle intently. Every recruit in the platoon was certain, he said, that Staff Sergeant Kepple was going to get the chewing of his life for such blatant physical abuse of a new platoon.

After what seemed to be an eternity the Colonel walked back over to Staff Sergeant Kepple and said, again loudly enough for EVERY recruit to hear: "Well done, Staff Sergeant...We can't have Marine recruits full of kinks, now can we?" "No Sir!," Staff Sergeant Kepple happily barked in return.

With that the Colonel turned, strode back to his car, got in and rode away...Taking with him any and all hope for relief from this mindless torture.

My dad said that Staff Sergeant Kepple just seemed to feed off of the Colonel's approval...The platoon continued the duck waddling drill for more than an hour after the Colonel's departure.

For years my dad told this story...Always ending it with the same line: "Yes sir, Staff Sergeant Kepple and that @*#!*%$ Colonel rescued us from being the only 'kinky' Marines in the history of the Corps!"



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